« AnteriorContinuar »
did not utter an exclamation of surprise. On the appearance of the first, third, and fourth horses, it will be perceived that he said, “I beheld,” or “I beheld, and lo!”—but on that of the second he simply says, “And there went out another horse.” With such minute accuracy is every thing here worded ! The reign of Theodosius too is more generally omitted as a division of history, from coming so near that of Constantine ; there being only about sixty years between them. But this is no objection to its forming an epoch in history; for, as Mr. Hallam well observes, “the continuous chain of transactions in the stage of human society, is ill defined by mere lines of chronological demarcation—and that many considerable portions of time, especially before the twelfth century,”—and this observation eminently applies to the long lapse of time, (above seven centuries,) occupied by the fourth seal,—“may justly be deemed so barren of events worthy of remembrance, that a single sentence or paragraph is often sufficient to give the character of entire generations, and of long dynasties of obscure kings.” In connection with the above observation, it may be curious to notice this stream of deterioration as it passed through these four great eras, by just giving the space between each of the great sovereigns who, in the providence of God, formed
The first forms an epoch of about 60 years; the second of about 170; the third of about 250; and the last, as above observed, and as will be immediately explained, of above 700 years. Fourth.-The next observation I would make is, that although the church was so changed under the progress of these four distinct successive eras, as no longer to appear the same—the first being that of white, or having the character of purity—the second red, or that of slaughter—the third black, or that of ignorance—and the fourth livid, or that of corruption; yet still, together with this distinctness, there is also observed an unity. “They are all horses: and all pass by a regular gradation from one colour to another; from the mild and peaceful rule displayed in the character of the first horse, to the dreadful tyranny of Death and Hell, which characterizes the last. This unity and completion of parts is also insinuated by their being contained under the cardinal number four, answering to the four sides of the Throne, and to the four living creatures there stationed, who speak on the opening of each seal, until the voices have gone through the complete square of the throne.” Carry this idea to its type, the encampment of the twelve tribes in the wilderness, and we see, in a most beautiful light, that “the whole assembly of the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,” are represented as most deeply interested in the church on
* Dean Woodhouse.
earth. “This unity,” the Dean goes on to observe, “ also accords with that of the four first trumpets, and of the four first vials, as will be seen in their places:” and that certainly in this book of Revelation, the number seven, the number of perfection, evidently divides into the component parts of four and three, both in the seals, the trumpets, and in the vials. Fifth-The last observation I would make, with regard to these four first seals, is this—that they may be summed up in a very few words, as exhibiting the church in a state of increasing external splendour, attended by a proportionate internal decay 1 The providence speaks volumes to all of us; and it is a most striking lesson, if we would but look at it in this light, awfully confirming the repeated warnings given in the Scriptures of the intoxicating nature of worldly and outward prosperity in all its forms. Satan tempted our Lord with the dominion and glory of this world, which was all he could offer; and although he could not but fail here, he has nevertheless ever been too successful with mere mortals, both in their individual and public capacities. In the present instance he made the largest stride ever beheld, and deceived the world in one vast mass— and this veil of ignorance and corruption is still, to an incalculable extent, overspreading with the gloom of death the greater part of the world. It speaks especially to churches; and accommodating it to their present aspect, it speaks likewise to societies, not to be high-minded, but fear; not to
seek great things for themselves, as it regards worldly distinction, and notice, and wealth, but to be satisfied with a humble, lowly condition, looking to God, and depending upon his blessing, and keeping at the foot of the cross.
THE OPENING OF THE FIFTH SEAL ;
Or the Age of Martyrs, and the Church’s partial recovery.
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw, under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried, with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ! And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (vi. 9–11.)
In the great change symbolized by this Seal, the instrumentality also changes—it is no longer, as in the former seals, brought about by the illustrious of the world, by emperors, kings, or warriors—it is brought about by inward causes, in opposition to the prevailing apostacy and the ruling powers. It was the voice of a part of the ransomed church in glory, that, on the opening of each of those, called out, “Come and see.” It is still a part of such church that again speaks, but it is a select part—it is “the souls of those that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held :” in other
words, it is the souls of the martyrs of Jesus, crying aloud, not again to “come and see” the outward progress of Christianity in its association with the grandeur of the world, but its progress as opposed to the wickedness of the times; its progress in the re-action that has taken place; and the reception it has experienced. All this very clearly appears from the phraseology of this seal, viz. that under the altar, the mercy seat, the most holy place, (that is, where the presence of God is,) there is a host of disembodied spirits, who have, under the new order of things that has taken place, been “slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” whose blood cries out to God the Sovereign Lord, the arbiter and disposer of all things, for vengeance ; implying that the whole time this Seal shall be in operation it shall more or less be a season of persecution, in which those who hold a faithful testimony for God, in opposition to the prevailing corruption, should do so at the risk of their lives. And all this has happened This fifth great scene in the Christian drama has been faithfully exhibited on the stage of time; and it will be readily identified, in what is emphatically called the REFoRMATio N, and the consequences that flowed from it in that and the succeeding ages. The Revolution which this great event brought to pass in public opinion, and in the views and sentiments of mankind, was greater and more marked than any which had transpired since the days of